We've updated our monthly workforce analysis to include Friday's Employment Report for February. The unemployment dropped to 3.5%, and the number of new nonfarm jobs (a relatively volatile number subject to extensive revisions) came in at 273K.

The Unemployment Rate

The closely watched headline unemployment rate is a calculation of the percentage of the Civilian Labor Force, age 16 and older, that is currently unemployed. Let's put this metric into its historical context. The first chart below illustrates this monthly data point since 1990.

In the latest report, this indicator rose to 3.6%. The age 16+ population increased by 126 thousand, and the labor force (the employed and unemployed actively seeking employment) decreased by 60 thousand. The number of employed increased by 45 thousand and the ranks of the unemployed decreased by 105 thousand.

Unemployment Rate since 1990

Unemployment in the Prime Age Group

Let's look at the same statistic for the core workforce, ages 25-54. This cohort leaves out the employment volatility of the high-school and college years, the lower employment of the retirement years and also the age 55-64 decade when many in the workforce begin transitioning to retirement ... for example, two-income households that downsize into one-income households.

In the latest report, this indicator is at 3.0% (to one decimal place), unchanged from the previous month. The cohort population increased by 14 thousand and the labor force decreased by 63 thousand. The breakdown of the growth is a decrease of 61 thousand employed and a 2 thousand increase in the unemployed. 

Unemployment Rate Ages 25-54